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Protests in Tel Aviv as gay amendment in Israeli surrogacy bill thrown out

23 July 2018
Appeared in BioNews 959

Members of Israel's LGBT community went on strike on Sunday to protest new surrogacy laws that exclude gay fathers.

The new law widens access to surrogacy which was previously limited to heterosexual married couples. The bill allowing single women and lesbians to access surrogacy legally within Israel was passed on 18 July by the Knesset, but an amendment put forward by MK Amir Ohana from the Prime Minister's Likud party to allow single men the same access was rejected. 

'This is the 21st century,' said MK Itzik Shmuli from the Zionist Union party. 'People are not seated at the back of the bus because of the colour of their skin, and they will not be deprived of the right to be parents because of their orientation.'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he supports gay and single men's right to have children, but later voted against the amendment. 

'Today we voted in favour of a law for mothers. I told MK Ohana ahead of time that I would not support his current amendment because it would topple the law and then mothers would not have access to surrogacy. Despite that, I said that if he introduces a law for fathers I will support it,' said Netanyahu.

Gay men may seek surrogacy outside Israel but the cost is prohibitive for many families. Some employers have been quick to offer payments of 60,000 Israeli shekels (around £12,500) to employees who need surrogacy to grow their families, but surrogacy in Israel is likely to cost around 200,000 Israeli shekels and international surrogacy can be substantially more. 

On 22 July, tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Tel Aviv, which is known for its gay culture, and smaller protests took place in Jerusalem and other cities. 

Netanyahu has been criticised widely for appearing to change his mind on the issue. Tyler Gregory of A Wider Bridge, a US-based organisation that supports Israel's LGBTQ community, said: 

'The ability of the ultra-Orthodox parties within the government to force a vote on anti-gay legislation is yet another instance of the Israeli government highlighting its support of LGBTQ rights abroad while harming LGBTQ people at home by prioritizing coalition politics over people's lives.'

Gay couples denied right to surrogacy in new law
The Jerusalem Post |  18 July 2018
Hundreds Protest in Tel Aviv After Netanyahu Flip-flops on Surrogacy Bill
Haaretz |  18 July 2018
LGBTs call nationwide strike in protest of surrogacy law excluding gays
The Times of Israel |  19 July 2018
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